I am
Show me:
Show me:
People stop seeing GPs for chronic illnesses: new MBS data reveal nearly 100,000 fewer visits
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

People stop seeing GPs for chronic illnesses: new MBS data reveal nearly 100,000 fewer visits

Media Release - 20 May 2020

Tens of thousands of Australians with chronic diseases are putting themselves at risk by missing vital visits to their GP and skipping potentially life-saving cholesterol tests to manage and prevent heart disease.

New data from the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) reveals a 10 per cent drop in GP visits for the management of chronic disease in March 2020, equating to 96,000 less visits compared to the same time last year. 

Alongside the impact of COVID-19 on the fall in chronic disease visits, pathology data from NSW reveal a 28 per cent drop in cholesterol tests being processed in March compared to the same time in February 2020.

Heart Foundation Chief Medical Adviser, cardiologist Professor Garry Jennings, said the data also showed an 18 per cent drop in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Checks in March 2020 compared to the same time last year. 

“These are potentially life-saving check-ups, tests and monitoring that people are missing out on,” Professor Jennings said.

“We know that nearly one in two Australians live with one or more chronic conditions and more than four million of these people live with cardiovascular disease.  

“A doubling of the number of calls to our Helpline compared to the same time last year tells us that many Australians living with heart disease are worried about their risk of COVID-19 complications, especially as restrictions ease.

“Our message is very clear – it is vital that you continue to monitor your heart health and maintain your regular medical care, and there are options for you to do this safely via telehealth or in person.
“What we don’t want to see is a stalling of the progress we have made in Australia in reducing preventable deaths caused by chronic diseases.”

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RACGP) President Dr Harry Nespolon said the new data was concerning and urged patients not to put off important medical appointments and tests.

“It’s never been easier to access your GP – with consultations now available by telephone or videoconferencing, as well as in person. For most people, a phone or video consultation with their GP will be suitable, but for those patients who still need to see their GP in person, we’re reminding them that it is safe to do so given the infection control processes in place,” said Dr Nespolon.

Professor Jennings said the drop in lipid tests, including for LDL and HDL cholesterol, were particularly concerning as cholesterol needs to be routinely measured.

“There are rarely any signs or symptoms attributed to changes in cholesterol levels, yet left undetected and untreated, these changes can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.”  

Professor Jennings said that while the MBS data showed GPs had claimed more than one million Telehealth items in March 2020, only a small proportion of GP visits for the management of chronic disease were delivered via Telehealth.

“It’s reassuring to see that telehealth has been taken up by a higher proportion of older Australians, aligning well with the group of people we know are more likely to have multiple chronic conditions and be at higher risk of COVID-19 complications.

“But we want to see people at risk of or living with heart disease continue to see their GP about managing their condition, whether it be by telehealth or if needed, face to face.”

The MBS data showed an increase in shorter GP visits of less than 20 minutes, compared to the same time last year, which is likely a reflection of increased flu vaccinations.

Telehealth has helped slightly bridge the gap for longer GP consults of more than 20 minutes, which saw a nine per cent drop compared to March 2019. 

The Heart Foundation is one of 22 organisations coming together in the Continuity of Care Collaboration (CCC) which is an Australian-first collaboration of peak bodies, industry and healthcare organisations reinforcing the importance for people to continue to maintain their regular medical care.

The group formed due to mounting concerns that Australians are delaying or not maintaining their regular doctor visits for existing chronic conditions due to fears of contracting COVID-19 or burdening the health system.

Media enquiries

Fleur Jacobs, Senior National Media Adviser
M: 0427 591 638 E: fleur.jacobs@heartfoundation.org.au

Heart Age Calculator

Heart Age Calculator

Heart Age Calculator

Try our Heart Age Calculator to understand what contributes to your risk of heart disease....

Support and resources for health care professionals

Support and resources for health care professionals

Support and resources for health care professionals

Our range of clinical and patient support resources are available for you to use in your daily practice....

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Join the fight against Australia’s biggest killer by supporting the Heart Foundation.  ...

Clinical Guidelines

Clinical Guidelines

Clinical Guidelines

Full list of clinical guidlines and references for CVD, heart failure, ACS, hypertension, atrial fibrillation, SCAD and RHD...

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

There is no single cause for any one heart condition, but there are risk factors that increase your chance of developing one. ...

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Join the Heart Foundation community. Together, we can make a real difference for Australian hearts. ...

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation programs and resources to support your recovery....

Supporting Your Emotional Wellbeing: An Online Forum for Young Heart Patients

Supporting Your Emotional Wellbeing: An Online Forum for Young Heart Patients

Supporting Your Emotional Wellbeing: An Online Forum for Young Heart Patients

Pregnancy and heart disease

Pregnancy and heart disease

Information and resources for health professionals....

Salad recipes

Salad recipes

Salad recipes

Search through our tasty salad recipes...

10 ways to get the right balance of fats 

10 ways to get the right balance of fats 

10 ways to get the right balance of fats 

Getting the right balance of fats in your diet can improve your heart health....

Heart Foundation Walking

Heart Foundation Walking

Heart Foundation Walking

Learn more about Heart Foundation Walking and find your local walking group....

Heart Health Checks: the critical role of the practice nurse

Heart Health Checks: the critical role of the practice nurse

Heart Health Checks: the critical role of the practice nurse

This webinar discusses the role of practice nurses in conducting heart health checks...

Heart Foundation recipes

Heart Foundation recipes

Heart Foundation recipes

Check out our recipe categories to find your next heart healthy meal....

Get your family moving

Get your family moving

Get your family moving

Get your kids active and set them up for healthier habits into adulthood....

For professionals: Heart Health Checks

For professionals: Heart Health Checks

Heart Health Checks have been supported by Medicare since April 2019....

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril suffered a heart attack in 2015. Cardiac rehab helped get his life back on track. ...

Smoking and your heart

Smoking and your heart

Smoking and your heart

Understand how smoking can impact your heart health. ...

Workplace giving for employees

Workplace giving for employees

Workplace giving for employees

Your employer’s workplace giving program makes it easy to setup regular, tax-deductible donations from your pre-tax income. ...

Raffles & Lotteries

Raffles & Lotteries

Raffles & Lotteries

Give yourself a chance to win $20,000 while helping the Heart Foundation to raise essential funds for heart research....

Supporting local Councils in South Australia

Supporting local Councils in South Australia

Supporting local Councils in South Australia

Resources to help support your council region to be healthy, connected and safe....

Fit, active and healthy – Sharon wasn’t expecting a heart attack

Fit, active and healthy – Sharon wasn’t expecting a heart attack

Fit, active and healthy – Sharon wasn’t expecting a heart attack

Fit, active and healthy, Sharon wasn’t expecting a heart attack. However, after experiencing a ‘widow maker’, she counts herself lucky....

Gerry had heart attack warning signs on his dream holiday.

Gerry had heart attack warning signs on his dream holiday.

Gerry had heart attack warning signs on his dream holiday.

I’d always thought of myself as fairly fit; I swam a lot, and did ‘soft running’, a combination of running and walking. ...

Matilda signs up for Jump Rope just one month after open-heart surgery

Matilda signs up for Jump Rope just one month after open-heart surgery

Matilda signs up for Jump Rope just one month after open-heart surgery

Media Release - 26 June 2020...

What is coronary heart disease?

What is coronary heart disease?

What is coronary heart disease?

Coronary heart disease (CHD) or coronary artery disease occurs when a coronary artery clogs and narrows because of a buildup of plaque....

Our history

Our history

Our history

For more than 60 years the Heart Foundation has been helping improve heart health across the nation....

Applying for research funding with the Heart Foundation

Applying for research funding with the Heart Foundation

Applying for research funding with the Heart Foundation

Discover more about our various funding programs, requirements, and application dates now....

Lipid management clinical information and resources

Lipid management clinical information and resources

Lipid management resources for health professionals...

What's your BMI?

What's your BMI?

What's your BMI?

Are you within a healthy weight range for your height?...

Get started with more physical activity

Get started with more physical activity

Get started with more physical activity

Finding time for physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your heart...